Is health a process or a destination? Reflections on bee-ing.

Oh, where to start this morning? Last night I really wanted to write, but, since I was already in bed at 10 p.m., I slept. And, here it is, a quarter to six in the morning, and I am writing.

I have a couple of photos I want to share. One of them is this one:

This is a metahpor, I'm just not sure what it means

My daughter took this picture of a bee we found on the beach that had found it’s way onto my shirt. I took the bee off of my shirt using this seagull feather found nearby.

I don’t know what happened to the bee. It was confused, and having trouble flying. I planted the feather in the sand, in such a way that the bee could fly again once it felt ready, but for as long as it needed to, it could cling to that feather.

My little girl is afraid of bees. This was a great opportunity for her to look at a bee, be near a bee, without worrying about being stung (the bee clearly wasn’t up for that). I got to model not being afraid. (If you read this paragraph out loud, I’m sure it sounds funny, what with all the bees and be-s).

So this next picture is going to make more sense, knowing what is on that feather. There I am, noticing the bee. Trying to figure out how to get it off of me in a safe way. Yes, we’ve traveled backwards in time from the first photo to the second. And when I looked at the photos, I couldn’t remember what was going on in the first photo until I looked at the next one. Both of these were taken by my daughter, so that’s partly why I couldn’t remember.

There's a bee on me. I'm not freaking out.

As a parent, I relish these moments, when I actually can see that there’s a chance to model being calm in the face of something potentially scary, threatening, upsetting. It’s not that I’m pretending to be calm, I’ll usually say something like “wow, there’s a bee on me. I guess it might sting, but it seems to be just wanting to hang out on my shirt. I wonder what we could do to get this bee to a spot that’s more safe for both of us.” I have to do the same thing with spiders, I try to acknowledge that there is genuinely a large spider there, and, if my husband isn’t around and it is a really big spider, and I can tell it’s not a black widow, I try to extract the spider while preserving its life to live comfortably somewhere else. And I mention how grateful I am that spiders catch and eat mosquitoes — those I kill with my bare hands if necessary (and wash my hands promptly afterwards).

So, that’s me, on the beach, looking funny and awkward with a bee on my shirt. See me? I’m fat, right? (I’m not fishing for you to say “Oh, but you’re not FAT!”) My BMI is around 40. And I’m doing something very healthy. I’m allowing my body to produce some Vitamin D (and that’s no small feat if you live in Western Washington, like I do). I’m enjoying a sunny (if cool) afternoon on the beach with my daughter. We are walking. And playing. And laughing. I’m sure that somewhere in there, exercise and calories being burned are happening. Skin is also being slightly burned, I’ll find out later. Fat as I am, I am wearing a swimsuit and not feeling self-conscious, because I’m too busy feeling happy and having a good time, and trying to avoid the bee crawling up to the top of my shirt and onto my skin.

For me, health is what happens as I’m living my life. Sometimes that means my blood pressure, normally well within the normal range without blood pressure medication, goes into the “prehypertensive” range, and I need to do something to correct it (in this case, it meant reducing the amount of a medication). Sometimes, when I check my blood sugar in the morning (for those of you new to reading me, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes when I was 25 and I’m now 42) I can see that the actions I took the previous day have had an impact on the reading. 100? Wow, that walk I took around the block with my dog out of frustration with my family after dinner meant a lower number than usual. 124? Ok, so, maybe next time one scoop of lactose-free vanilla ice cream, with a sprinkle of nuts on top, would be better than going back for a third small serving.

I know that I can make adjustments to what and how much I eat, and how much movement I get, the intensity of that movement, and the timing of that movement — and that those adjustments have an impact on my health, in particular on my blood sugar readings. (My last A1C was 5.9, if you know how to interpret that number.)

I had something interesting happen to me. I was depressed, really depressed, for a while this year. Like, the part of the year from February through July. The depth of the depression was likely due to a variety of things, but the biggest contributor was a lousy work environment, nothing I could change, and there weren’t other jobs available for me to apply for, either (I looked). So the depression lingered, until it got so bad, I made an appointment with my wonderful doctor, and adjusted some meds, and I was back within a short period of time to my normal level of energy. The adjustment of the medication happened to correspond to more sunshine-y weather, more physical activity, and work improving in ways that were entirely out of my control. So, all of these things together helped. But while I was depressed, I didn’t have a whole lot of appetite. My weight went down a bit, to a place where I usually wouldn’t be able to maintain unless I was restricting the amount I eat beyond what feels normal for me. I wasn’t eating competently, not on purpose, but as a side effect of the depression. And eating less meant that the medications I take for diabetes were causing yucky side effects that were also impacting how I felt and my appetite and causing stomach upset, so I didn’t feel like eating for that reason, too.

Now I’m feeling better. And — surprise — food tastes good again. It’s like, wow, cheese and crackers are delicious! More cherries, please! More avocado on my sandwich sounds good. Wow, these greens are yummy! And while I find I get full quickly, in a way that makes me slightly sad I can’t have more of something that tastes good, I know I’ll have another opportunity to eat soon. And, no surprise, I’m finding that the clothes that were loose while I was at the depth of depression are now a bit snug. I realized that my body didn’t know that I wasn’t dieting, that my reasons for eating less weren’t to intentionally deprive it of food, but even so, there’s this “rebound” of appetite and resulting weight that are throwing me for a loop.

So, just like the bee on my shirt (see, I found a way to tie this together), I have to say, calmly, “Oh look, my tummy is bigger. Hmmm. How about that? And my thighs, too. Oh. Well. No need to panic.”

Yesterday, I was imagining the parts of myself chiming in on this:

Me: Oh no! I’m fatter.

Other part of me: Yes, it’s okay. Just calm down.

Me: But it’s not okay! You’re going the wrong way*!

Other part of me: Relax, it’s not an emergency. It’s just that now that food tastes good again, and we feel better, we’re eating more, and our body is operating the way that bodies do, storing up.

Me: But….. Fatter! Must… do… something!

Other part of me: Well, we could get more exercise, and focus on all of the yummy fruits and veg in season right now, and see what happens.

Me: Right. Okay. But, not fatter. Please.

Other part of me: Let’s focus on the process. And maybe it’s time to get back to work.

And… scene.

I suppose this also relates to Jess Weiner. Loving my body doesn’t mean hating myself for being fat. It does mean paying attention to when I gain weight, as it’s also a cue that something is going on (in this case, recovering from a depressive episode. And, yes, I’ve considered the idea that weight gain and increased appetite may be a result of the adjusted meds). Taking excellent care of my health is important. Because I’ve had type 2 diabetes since I was 25, other than the times I’ve avoided the doctor’s office because I didn’t want to be shamed, and my way of addressing that is to frequent only to doctors offices where I won’t be shamed, I’ve seen a primary care doctor nearly every three months. If things crop up that need to be addressed, like my A1C increasing, or my blood pressure increasing (so far, it’s only been medication-induced), or my weight climbing above a spot that my doctor and I are comfortable with, I make a plan and work it. I’m so so so so lucky to have health insurance (and might have walked away from a really bad work environment if my ability to maintain good health coverage wasn’t tied to my job) — so I know not everyone has access to doctors who don’t shame. But accepting my body hasn’t killed me. It’s saved me. And accepting my body hasn’t meant denying what impact being fat has had on my health. It’s helped me to realize that if I want to stay at this size, dieting is not going to help me. More exercise, if I can find the time for it? Great. More vegetables, fruit at snack time, regular meals with some good protein in there, yes, and even dessert? Absolutely. Seeing my doctor every three months to help stay on track with managing diabetes (and depression, when necessary). Of course.

I hope that if a bee lands on your shirt, it’s a calm bee, and it is easily moved off with a feather. That is my wish for you today.

* This is an inside joke I have with myself from the movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” where Steve Martin and John Candy have spun around in their car after hitting a deer which is now not dead, but knocked unconscious, and in the backseat of the car, and a driver manages to yell at them “You’re going the wrong way!” and they say “how does he know which way we’re going?” So, when I gain weight, I yell “You’re going the wrong way!” and then laugh and say to myself “How do you know which way I’m going.” I have a rich inner life.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Is health a process or a destination? Reflections on bee-ing.

  1. What a wonderful post. Thanks for making my day!

  2. Don’t know why, but Bobby McFerrin is now playing in my head. “Dooo, dute, do, do-do-do, do-do-do do-de-do, Don’t Worry; Bee happy.”

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